Saudi Film Council’s First Movie Will Be ‘Wadjda’ Director Haifaa Al-Mansour’s ‘The Perfect Candidate’ – Cannes

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s new national film organization the Saudi Film Council is supporting its first feature in the shape of Wadja director Haifaa Al-Mansour’s upcoming The Perfect Candidate.

The movie will be produced by Al Mansour Productions in Saudi Arabia and Gerhard Meixner and Roman Paul of Razor Film Produktion in Berlin. The co-production was negotiated by UTA Independent Film Group which will handle sales in North America. The Match Factory will handle sales internationally.

Al-Mansour will direct from a script she wrote with Brad Niemann. Filming is expected to start in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia by mid-September.

The drama tells the story of a young female doctor who runs for municipal office while her father is off touring the country with the re-established Saudi National Band, which had been banned under law prohibiting public music performances.

Al-Mansour said: “I believe that change must ultimately be sustained and driven by the people who are most in need of improvements and increased mobility in their daily lives. I want to help lead this positive change by telling a story that is full of hope and celebrates the power of resiliency and hard work. I want to encourage Saudi women to seize the moment, to take a chance, and break away from the system that for so long has held us back.”

Al-Mansour made history in 2012 as the first female Saudi filmmaker with the award-winning Wadjda, notably the first film shot entirely in Saudi and the kingdom’s first submission to the Oscars. As we revealed last month, the filmmaker is in development with ShadowMachine on animation Miss Camel.

She is one of three women on the new 13-member board of the General Authority for Culture (a parent organization to the Saudi Film Council, of which little is known about its structure) which will oversee cultural and artistic development in Saudi Arabia. If it seems strange that the same board Al-Mansour was just appointed to is also overseeing her next movie, it should be remembered that she is the first and only internationally recognized filmmaker to come out of the country. Following the success of Wadjda, Al-Mansour shot two other features: Mary Shelley, based on the late Frankenstein author, and Nappily Ever After, based on the book by Trisha R. Thomas.

A first and large Saudi delegation is in Cannes — the Saudi Pavilion is hosting 12 shorts from the country — as the latest sign of the kingdom’s growing movie ambitions. The country is opening its first public cinemas this year and has big plans for entertainment industry growth. Meanwhile, investments are underway between the kingdom and Hollywood. The Sovereign Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia is has been negotiating a deal to acquire 5%-10% of Endeavor for $400m.

Al-Mansour is repped by UTA, Anonymous Content and Loeb & Loeb.

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